SUTHERLIN — After a prolonged closure from February’s epic snow storm, the St. Francis Community Kitchen is back in business.
The kitchen serves meals to anyone who needs a meal each Monday and Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., in the kitchen and dining room of the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Sutherlin — a feat that works out to be approximately 40 to 60 meals on each day. It had to shut down after snow storm of Feb. 24 caused some major damage to the two-story building that houses the cafeteria which is responsible for some take-home meals as well.
As a result of the snow storm on Feb. 24, the roof began to leak, ultimately spreading from the upstairs down to kitchen and dining area on the first floor.
“There is a floor above us with classrooms and an office and the roof leaked through the tar paper,” said Gail Francis, co-chair of the Community Kitchen. “It leaked into two light fixtures and it went down into the wall and also wrecked the carpet.”
Because of the damage, the kitchen had to close until Monday — a period of a little more than six weeks.
“We were really worried about all of our folks, but a couple of the volunteers work at the food pantry, so they were giving extra boxes of food,” Francis said. “This is an important thing for them, they’re very respectful and very grateful.”
Fred Young, 92 years old and a World War II veteran, eats at the center every Monday and Wednesday. He occasionally plays the harmonica for those who come, and he missed the camaraderie and friendship with the other visitors.
“That’s the main thing, I come to socialize,” Young said. “They have all different foods, sometimes they have macaroni and cheese, man that’s a good meal.”
Volunteer Bennie Sigman said he’s really missed serving the people who come to eat.
“Yeah I sure did, lot of it is for the socializing, but a lot of people come here for the food too, there’s a lot of them that really need it,” Sigman said. “This gives me a little something to do, I can’t stand doin’ nothing.”
The church has insurance that will cover much of the damage, and the kitchen volunteers are still trying to get the word out to the community that the meals are being served again.
“What we noticed on Monday was that they were so appreciative of us coming back,” said Theresa Kirkpatrick, a co-chair of the community kitchen. “We really just serve the needs of Sutherlin and the surrounding areas.”
Kirkpatrick said because of the extended closure, it may take some time to get the numbers back up. The quality of food she said, is more like restaurant quality instead of a soup kitchen with meat, vegetables, salad and fruit and then dessert.
“There are times we get homeless folks, sometimes families, some people that live on their own,” Francis said.
The dinners are available to anyone in the Sutherlin and the surrounding area.
The center is run by volunteers and Francis says they are always looking for more people to help out.